Keith Williams Architects' £11.5 million Unicorn Theatre in London - the UK's first purposedesigned theatre for children - has started on site. The theatre, on Tooley Street, falls within Foster and Partners' masterplan for the More London Bridge development, which includes the new City Hall at its eastern end.
The 3,300m 2building - an asymmetric pavilion composed of bright stucco, stack-bonded blue engineering brick and glass - is intended to be 'rough yet beautiful' in response to the initial brief by the client, artistic director Tony Graham.
A multi-level transparent cafe and foyer reveals a 120-seat studio theatre and grand stair, and provides a 'shopfront' along Tooley Street and Unicorn Passage, the main pedestrianised route to and from the River Thames. This openness is offset by solid elevations, which recall the narrow streets and warehouses that once occupied the site, and the 19thcentury railway viaducts of London Bridge station nearby.
The main 350-seat auditorium - the 'theatre in the sky' - is clad in pre-patinated brown copper and balances spectacularly above the foyer. The building houses an education studio and rehearsal space.
The project, won in competition in 2000, is due to open in 2005, providing the company with a permanent base for the first time in its 55-year history.
The design team includes Theatre Projects Consultants and Arup Acoustics with Arup as the engineer, Buro Happold as the access consultant, Bucknall Austin as the cost consultant and Mansell Construction Services as the contractor.